A massive 500-meter-tall coral reef was discovered by scientists in the Great Barrier Reef. The coral reef is believed to be taller than the Empire State Building, the Sydney Tower, and the Petronas Twin Towers. Australian scientists discovered the majestic coral reef while they were aboard Schmidt Ocean Institute's research vessel Falkor, which is currently on a 12-month exploration in Oceans surrounding Australia. Scientists discovered the reef off the coast of North Queensland, around the Cape York area.

New Discovery: Massive 500-meter-tall Coral Reef in Great Barrier Reef
(Photo: Pixabay)
A massive 500-meter-tall detached coral reef was discovered by Australian scientists in the Great Barrier Reef.

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Unexpected discovery using an underwater robot

The study team led by Dr. Robin Beaman from James Cook University discovered the reef while conducting underwater mapping of the northern Great Barrier Reef seafloor.

On October 25, the team conducted a dive using SuBastian, the Schmidt Ocean Institute's underwater robot to explore the reef. Using a robot allowed the dive to be live-streamed, with high-resolution footage viewed and broadcasted on the website of the institute and YouTube channel.

The newly-discovered coral reef in Great Barrier Reef

The newly-discovered coral reef had a base of 1.5 km wide and then rises 500 m to its shallowest depth of only 40 m below the sea surface.  The detached reef is an addition to seven other tall detached reefs in the area, which was mapped since the late 1800s. Among which was the reef at Raine Island, the world's most important green sea turtle nesting area.

According to Wendy Schmidt, co-founder of the Schmidt Ocean Institute, the unexpected discovery is an affirmation of that finding of unknown structures and new species must be continued. He said that although the state of knowledge in the ocean is limited, new technologies that "work as eyes, ears, and hands in the deep ocean has the capacity to explore like never before, revealing ecosystems and diverse life forms."

Dr. Beaman, the lead researcher said that they were surprised and elated by the new discovery.  Being able to 3D map the reef in detail, and visually see the discovery using SuBastian is astonishing, he said.

The discovery was made possible by the commitment of the Schmidt Ocean Institute as they granted ship to Australia's scientists.

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More Schmidt Ocean Institute Discoveries

The new coral species discovery is an addition to a year of underwater discoveries by the Institute. In February this year, deep-sea coral gardens and graveyards in Bremer Canyon Marine park In April, a 45-meter siphonophore in Ningaloo Canyon which was the longest sea creature recorded, and 30 more new species. In August, five undescribed species of black coral and sponges were discovered. Scientists also recorded the first observation of a rare scorpionfish in the Coral Sea and Great Barrier Reef Marine Parks

According to Executive Director of Schmidt Ocean Institute,  Dr. Jyotika Virmani, "This powerful combination of mapping data and underwater imagery will be used to understand this new reef and its role within the incredible Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area."

The Great Barrier Reef voyage is expected to continue until November 17 in the hope of finding more discoveries like the 500-meter-tall coral reef and map out the seabeds. The maps developed from the voyage will be available through AusSeabed, a national Australian seabed mapping program, and will contribute to the Nippon Foundation GEBCO Seabed 2030 Project.

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Check out more news and information on Coral Reefs on Nature World News.